Acting in pantomimes – the most popular theatrical form in Jamaica – put Marcia Brown on a stage with some of the big names in the business, including friend and mentor Leonie Forbes who is considered Jamaica’s Queen of Theatre.
Coming to Toronto in 1989 was an opening to perform on a bigger stage and access high-profiled cultural opportunities. Or so she thought.
Almost immediately upon arrival Brown was cast in Denise Jones’ We Run Things. Her great expectations, however, rapidly dwindled.
“I hired an agent and auditioned for roles in mainstream theatre, but nothing materialized and I never received any calls,” recalled the Ensom City Dance Club founder. “I encountered a very dry spell and that was very frustrating.”
Brown wrote short comedic skits that were showcased at birthday parties and in 2000 started what has become an annual Father’s Day tradition in the Greater Toronto Area with the hilarious Country Duppy.
“This was my first play and I knew I had to make a big splash the first time if this was what I was going to do,” said Brown. “When I called Leonie and asked her if she would consider coming and she said yes, I was floored. She was someone that I admired and respected. I remember those in Jamaica’s artistic community saying that if Leonie stopped to say hello to you or compliment you, it meant you were doing very well on stage.”
Brown’s latest play, I Need to Know My Father, is back by popular demand for six shows in Mississauga, Brampton, Oshawa, Scarborough, Ajax and North York from October 15 to November 13.
“I had this play in my head for a number of years,” she said. “I put it on hold after starting to write it because I could not break it down into a compelling scene format. There was a time when I thought of giving it to someone else to finish, but I encountered Jamaican Christian playwright Cleveland McLeish on line and he willingly agreed to have a look at the play and touch it up. When he returned it to me, the rest was easy.”
The cast includes seasoned performers Errol “Naggo” Morris and Letna Allen and a few aspiring young actors including Unionville High School of Performing Arts honour roll student, Kayla McLaughlin and French Immersion high schooler, Rochelle Robinson.
“One of the things I want to do is give exposure to young artists because there is not much opportunity for that talent to emerge and flourish,” said Brown who also produced Children Children, Feminine Justice, Single Entry, Rosetta, Wipe that Smile and Common Law.
Brown is also using her plays to raise funds for scholarships administered by the Jamaican Canadian Association. She made two presentations last month at the annual JCA awards.
“At some point, when you are in this business and people know you are in the community, you have to show them you are here not only to take from them but also to give back and that’s what I am doing,” she said. “I am fond of children and their educational development and I know there are a lot of youths out there who need some help to pursue post-secondary education.
“I handed out a scholarship each of the past three years and this year I was able to increase it because I held a 50/50 draw during my last production and the money I raised was good enough for an additional award.”
In addition to providing scholarships, Brown also donates her time performing comedy skits for community organizations and churches.
The fourth of eight children born in Orange Hill in St. Ann parish, Brown lived with her grandmother – Rose Brown – in Jackson Town, Trelawney for 13 years before reuniting with her mother in Kingston at age 15.
The mother of 30-year-old rapper Michael “King Avalanche” Scott credits her late grandmother for her artistic development.
“She was very colourful and witty,” said the member of Kingsway Community Life Centre. “I fed off of her.”
I Need to Know My Father opens on Saturday, October 15 at Port Credit Secondary School, 70 Mineola Rd. E, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.
For more information call (416) 843-8787 or visit www.marciabrownproductions.com.